Tesla Achieves Profitability in Q1; Updates Model S Lineup

Not an April Fools Day joke, yesterday Tesla announced it had exceeded previously forecast sales and profitability targets, and during the first quarter of this year it had become profitable according to both generally accepted accounting principles and non-GAAP.

The company also said it was cancelling the 40-kwh version due to lack of sufficient orders, and the 60-kwh version would come standard with supercharger capability. Previously this was to be an option for the 60-kwh model.

In all, first-quarter Model S sales exceeded a mid-February estimate of 4,500 units for Q1, and number of sold units was actually in excess of 4,750, Tesla said.

Tesla does not divulge actual month-over-month sales. Alan Baum, principle of Baum and Associates who helps us compile our monthly Dashboard, revised his estimates for January to around 1,300 Model S units, February to around 1,500 units, and for March he estimates around 1,950 Model S units sold.

Tesla has not yet begun European deliveries, and sales to Canada are a comparative trickle, so the bulk of these are to the U.S. market.

“I am incredibly proud of the Tesla team for their outstanding work. There have been many car startups over the past several decades, but profitability is what makes a company real. Tesla is here to stay and keep fighting for the electric car revolution,” said Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO. “I would also like to thank our customers for their passionate support of the company and the car. Without them, we would not be here.”

The company has also previously said for 2013 it will deliver 20,000 Model S units in all. Assuming 4,750 sold, and with nine months remaining, this would mean Tesla must average on the order of 1,694 units per month for the remainder of the year.

Revised Model Line-up

As you may know, Tesla’s Model S is a single car configured in a variety of options. Plans were for it to come equipped with a standard battery pack of 85 kilowatt-hours – and these were the first to be produced. Also to be made alongside are 60 kwh versions, and 40 kwh versions. Performance capabilities decrease as does price with these versions.

A battery pack is akin to describing its fuel capacity, and with less capacity, the cars must be de-tuned to allow an acceptable compromise range and performance with the given allotment of “fuel” (or stored electric energy on hand).

Regarding the just-cancelled 40-kwh Model S, Tesla said the decision was due to receiving only 4 percent of its orders for this entry level version.

“Customers are voting with their wallet that they want a car that gives them the freedom to travel long distances when needed,” Tesla said.

So, the people who did order a 40-kwh version will get a unique alternative. They will get a 60-kwh model that is software limited to only 40-kwh range. The car will have the higher top speed of the 60-kwh version so it will be “a better product than originally ordered,” Tesla said.

The owner or a future owner may also opt to upgrade to this to full 60-kwh specs, although Tesla did not say how much this would cost, or what the procedure would entail.

Also news is that the 60-kwh versions will come with “a small Easter egg” of standard Supercharger capability. Tesla says it is taking the risk that all customers will want the free unlimited lifetime charging at Supercharger locations that this option permits.

Increases to a given car’s resale value are also expected with this upgrade.

More Big News Promised

For all the magnitude of today’s news, Tesla also made clear that another “really exciting” announcement promised in a recent Twitter post by Elon Musk last week was still pending.

What news will top a revision to the model range and the company’s having become profitable for the first time remains to be seen.